Apple Music hooks 6.5 million subscribers: Should Spotify worry?

Initial reviews may not always be glowing, but music experts say wait and see.

Jeff Chiu/AP/File
Apple CEO Tim Cook (r.) hugs Beats by Dre co-founder and Apple employee Jimmy Iovine at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, June 8.

After Apple Music launched on June 30, the service’s 15 million users had three months to give it a go. Could Apple’s famously loyal customers be wooed from its music-streaming competitors, especially Spotify?

The start of October marked decision day for Apple Music’s first testers, who had to commit to $9.99 per month (or $14.99 for families) to continue streaming its 30 million songs whenever, wherever. (Including Taylor Swift, a major win: the songstress made headlines with a 2014 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal which declared “the future of music is a love story,” and love doesn’t come cheap; she was withdrawing her albums from Spotify’s free service.) 

Apple's chief executive officer Tim Cook indicated that the company’s big gamble is poised to pay off: speaking at WSJDLive yesterday, the Wall Street Journal’s global technology conference, he said that some 60 percent of trial users proved willing to pay. Apple Music now boasts 15 million users in total, 6.5 paying subscribers and another 8.5 who are still enjoying the free trial.

So should Spotify worry?

At first glance, the Swedish musical gurus look safe. Only seven years old, it’s already earned 75 million users, of whom 20 million are paying subscribers. Although they’ve lost Miss Swift to Apple, the rest of the library is virtually the same, as is the price.

And early reviews may have let Spotify breathe a tad easier.

“While Apple Music may be taking the secret of on-demand streaming to the masses, the app itself isn’t ready for them,” the Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern concluded.

Bloomberg Business’ headline was even less forgiving: “Apple Music Is a Hot Mess With a Few Bright Spots.” 

Several reviewers complained about the service’s “Russian nesting doll”-like menus, as Ms. Stern called them, finding it ironic that a company who revolutionized hand-held design was having trouble at this stage of the game.

But revolutions rarely happen overnight, and most observers were hesitant to place bets that Spotify could hold off its California rival.

Sure, other streaming services like Google Play Music or 8tracks will link to iTunes, but browsing, buying, and streaming are all the simpler if you’re already in an Apple product. The new iPhone 6 and 6s sold a record-breaking 13 million models in its opening weekend alone, in what Wired Magazine called “an autumn tradition for Apple.” 

And despite its lack of social sharing options – something Spotify has mastered – perks like offline downloads, easy syncing, ordering Siri to play you your favorite song (or introduce you to something new), and, need we mention again, Taylor Swift will likely help Apple catch up, despite being "late to the game."

The groundbreaking company that turned Napster from household name into “do-you-remember,” in the words of Bloomberg’s Stephen Pulvirent, seems determined to retake the digital music world that they more or less invented.

Although CD sales and even online downloads are way down, 41 million people now pay for streaming, and even personally skeptical reviewers like Stern believe it’s inevitable that Apple Music will make a good-sized splash.

Meanwhile, all the commotion has left some music lovers missing the good old days of actually owning, loving, and listening to music whenever they pleased, without sorting through endless ‘customized’ playlists.

“I used to listen to my Aretha [Franklin] albums a lot, but only when I was in a particular mood. Now, she doesn’t surface in my Spotify profile. The algorithms don’t know I have a relationship with her,” Geoffrey A. Fowler mused. 

Are you listening, Apple?

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Apple Music hooks 6.5 million subscribers: Should Spotify worry?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today